Polynesian Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui Sign Partnership Agreement

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

PM Tuilaepa: MOU ‘spirit of Polynesian cooperation and brotherhood’

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 13, 2015) – Polynesian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui (A.T.N) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) for flights to, from and beyond Samoa.

The M.O.U with the Tahiti, French Polynesia airline was announced by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, in a statement issued by Polynesian Airlines yesterday.

"This is indeed an historic achievement," Prime Minister Tuilaepa declared.

"This working together of Polynesian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui is in the true spirit of Polynesian cooperation and brotherhood."

"It is in line with the Polynesian Leaders Group’s vision of connecting all Polynesian countries with the larger metropolitan centres, with which much of our trade occurs."

"Air services are vital for Polynesian countries and this is an excellent opportunity to showcase what we have to offer."

According to the Prime Minister, who has just returned from the COP21 in Paris, the relationship with A.T.N "opens Samoa up to Asia, North America and Europe directly."

"We are pleased with the drive and foresight of those that have forged ahead in the face of criticisms and adversity to try and achieve better, more reliable and cheaper airfares for our people," Tuilaepa said.

"This partnership will indeed provide the much-needed tourism resolve that we so desperately need.

Samoa and indeed the Polynesian islands are well positioned to benefit from the safety of our region."

"We have been free from potential terrorist attacks and other issues plaguing many of the countries around the world. We are a friendly and peaceful people with beautiful islands with a rich and diverse culture that people around the world can only dream of."

"We offer tranquility and peace of mind. It is a safe destination. This opens us up to the U.S.A, and the European markets directly in terms of trade and tourism which is untapped for Samoa from those destinations due to the lack of direct flights."

And there is more.

"This partnership also gives us options to Asia through Narita, Japan, allowing our growing and very mobile Asian workforce to travel to anywhere in Asia," he said.

"Additionally it gives our business people better connectivity and lower landing costs. Our fish exports will certainly benefit from lower freight costs for their exports as will our business community."

Asked about the future of the Virgin Samoa joint venture between the government, Virgin Australia and Aggie Grey’s Group, the P.M. said a decision has yet to be made.

"A study has been completed and we will see what emerges. We will try and accommodate whatever recommendations are presented to harmonize arrangements to reflect the vision which leads to the proposed affiliation with Air Tahiti Nui of Tahiti, French Polynesia."

The Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Tourism Authority, Papali’i Sonja Hunter, is delighted about the partnership. She is particularly pleased about the plan to include a once a week flight to Narita, Japan directly through Samoa and return connecting to Tahiti and onwards to Europe.

"This is such a great opportunity which we have been wanting for many years and we are now seeing this become a reality," she said.

"I am very excited and thrilled by this development as it means our hoteliers and all of our activities tied to tourism will benefit and the country as a whole will benefit."

Papali’i encouraged the country to support the work being done by Polynesian Airlines to try and "get us back to jet services and this way is the best way forward for Samoa."

She urged all hoteliers and tourism stakeholders to rally behind the initiative.

"We all have a part to play, from travel agents to tour agencies and businesses to get behind this partnership," she said.

"This is a milestone for Samoa as this partnership opens up all new opportunities for both countries not only for tourism and trade but our fish exports to Japan and the USA arriving fresh."

"This much-needed partnership also bodes well for the economic growth and viability of our region.

Tahiti and Samoa as the natural Polynesian hubs have the equipment and support structures that will allow us to grow our visitor numbers and really put Samoa on the global map as a tourist destination." "This partnership opens up the Polynesian region to the world."

The Chief Executive Officer of Polynesian Airlines, Seiuli Alvin Tuala, said the proposed Air Tahiti Nui Polynesian Airlines joint services will begin with a once weekly Tahiti/ Samoa/ Japan /Samoa /Tahiti flight.

There will also be a Los Angeles/ Apia /Auckland/ Apia/ Los Angeles flight twice a week, utilizing one of Air Tahiti Nuis’ five Aerobus A340 - 300 jets which currently can seat 30 in Business Class and 264 in economy class.

Asked about the Solomon Airlines partnership, Seiuli said they are continuing to work with Solomon Airlines on other ventures. He said Air Tahiti Nui/Polynesian Airlines proposed routes are not covered by Solomon Airlines.

Chairman and C.E.O of Air Tahiti Nui, Michel Monvoisin, is pleased to be able to partner up with Polynesian Airlines.

"We are very pleased with this partnership with Polynesian Airlines and the Government of Samoa," he said. "It is indeed a momentous occasion in the development of both countries as it brings together Polynesia as a regional hub and it will showcase what Samoa and Tahiti have to offer.

"For Air Tahiti Nui we will be working very closely with our friends in Samoa to ensure that we promote both countries and provide a competitive and worthwhile service for the people."

Air Tahiti Nui is a global player with twice daily flights to Los Angeles from Tahiti, daily flights to Paris, three flights a week to Auckland and twice weekly flights to Narita, Japan utilizing its fleet of 5 Aerbus A340 - 300 Aircrafts.

Air Tahiti Nui also has a domestic arm in Air Tahiti, which services 41 domestic airports within the French Territories 118 Islands using a fleet of 12 ATR Twin Turbo Prop Aircraft.

It also services the Cook Islands from Tahiti once a week using an ATR Twin Turbo Prop Aircraft.

"Air Tahiti Nui have four New Boeing 787 – 9 Dreamliners now on order with the first ones being delivered at the end of next year," Mr. Monvoisin said.

"At present we operate 5 A340 – 300 Jets with flights to New Zealand, USA, Japan, France with code share alliances with American Airlines, Qantas and Air France.

"Through our partnership the people of Samoa will have a direct doorway to Asia, the USA, and Europe via Samoa directly. We are looking forward to starting once all the systems and other parts are all in place."

For now, Polynesian Airline’s C.E.O, Seiuli, said they are working hard on getting all the systems, pricing/ marketing in place. Once that is completed, the operations will begin.

"It is not an easy task but we are doing our best to make it happen with our colleagues at Air Tahiti Nui."

Seiuli commended Prime Minister Tuilaepa, deputy P.M. Fonooe Pierre Lauofo, Cabinet and the Board of Directors of Polynesian Airlines for the vision they had to revive Polynesian Airline’s international flights.

Seiuli also commended Va’aelua Nofo Va’aelua, the former C.E.O of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure for his assistance as well as his hard working team at Polynesian Airlines.

Lastly, Seiuli wanted to thank Lupesina Frederick Grey for making all the introductions with the Air Tahiti Nui Chairman and C.E.O as well as the key stakeholders in French Polynesia.

"Lupesina is held in very high regard by the business and tourism community in Tahiti as well as the government there and his help and foresight was invaluable to our cause and to make this a reality for Samoa with the direct flights," said Seiuli.

He added that he would be liaising closely with his counterparts in American Samoa and Tonga to ensure "that they are also included in this Polynesian Partnership."

"American Samoa and Tonga also have the same needs as us and instead of going at it alone, lets all work together and achieve the same for us all. We all have requirements for air services and this will be a golden opportunity to provide that service for our people and the Polynesian region."

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